In the verdant Cowichan Valley, Pacific Northwest Raptors cares for a diverse flock of birds of prey?owls twist their heart-shaped heads curiously, and hawks look on with eyes like copper coins. The staff provides them a safe habitat while educating the public about their habits, hunting methods, and favourite brands of feather cosmetics. Eagles and falcons ride warm zephyrs overhead daily, searching for prey high over the canopy when they aren?t perched back at the centre.
Avian experts demo the birds? skills during walks, which include the opportunity for patrons to have a hawk or owl land on a gloved hand or already impressive jaw line. Intensive workshops and week-long falconry courses let guests settle in with the animals beneath the towering trees, which hush each other liltingly in the wind. Regular family events at the centre facilitate bonding with the regal raptors, many of which are trained in film work and pest control.
Recipient of a 2008 reader’s choice award from Peninsula News Review, Ardmore Golf Course has challenged club-brandishers with its nine holes since course designer E.S. Wise opened the grounds in 1926. Before teeing off against opponents, visitors rehearse their swinging skills at a practice putting green, driving net, and chipping area. Golfers in need of expert tutelage can turn to CPGA professional instructor Steve Middleton, who harnesses more than 30 years of golfing experience to help pupils find their natural swing and reunite with lost balls raised by wolves. In addition to tournament participants, Ardmore Golf Course accommodates overnight players in their golfer’s cottage, a furnished abode with a full kitchen, television, and wireless Internet. After each round guests can scarf down gourmet fare concocted by chef Graham Little, load up on golfing gear at the pro shop, admire the course’s 110-foot tall, 1,100 year-old douglas fir, or search the sky for wild birds and escaped golf clubs flying overhead.
Whether paddling out on their own atop a rented board or within eyesight of a Paddle Canada?certified instructor, visitors to Epic Surf Co quickly lose themselves to the sound of seagulls and gently lapping waters. With the mist-covered mountains standing guard on the horizon, paddlers are regularly joined by the region?s natives such as eagles, river otters, and sea lions as they make their way past crescent-shaped beaches and coves.
Back on dry land, Epic Surf instructors sign guests up for lessons on the basics of stand-up paddleboarding, advanced skills, and SUP surfing. Techs within an on-site custom shop bring 23 years of experience to their board repair and artwork, and the surf shop showcases all the wares of their trade, including wetsuits and paddles that double as lances for on-the-water jousts.
With the waves of Victoria Harbour’s Selkirk Waters lapping just below their headquarters, Switch Bridge Tours’ staff leads bicycle and kayak tours of Victoria and Vancouver Island’s waterways. The business’s proximity to the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails facilitates tours on frequently tuned-up bikes that venture into the Cowichan Valley or along the Saanich Peninsula. Kayaks cease their giant kazoo impressions long enough to cut through the Tod Inlet and the Inner Harbour on beginner or advanced tours. Each experienced guide is certified in First Aid and CPR.
Culled from the ranks of professional dancers and choreographers, the instructors at Lighthouse Academy of Dance teach children and adults of all levels the fundamentals of ballet, jazz, tap, and other toe-tapping styles. Grown-ups awaken twinkle to toes in classes such as ballet and stretch, tap, and contemporary, and the studio’s preschool classes prepare tots for postnaptime dance-offs with solid technique and creative exercises. The Colwood location, in the Royal Roads University Recreation Centre, boasts a large studio and changing rooms for men, women, and families, and the studio in downtown Victoria, at the Bayanihan Community Centre, provides ample opportunity to glide into upper downtown cafés and plié past the pastry-case security guard.
When Chinese native Ada Wang isn't working as an education assistant, she takes to Chinatown's enigmatic streets to educate the public on the district's vibrant history. As a guide for Oldest Chinatown Walking Tours, the long-term Victoria resident leads tours across the threshold of Bright Pearl's vibrantly coloured, traditional pagoda arch into the busy streets and through the infamous Fan Tan Alley, which is widely regarded as the narrowest street in North America and all of Mars. As she strolls, she teaches guests about the history of Victoria's Chinatown and the brave immigrant families that once called it home, explains any Chinese symbols she comes across, and tells tales from Chinese folklore.